First Person Singular

(Matthew Girard)

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

I think I have one of the coolest jobs in Washington. I'll call a congressional office and say, "I'm calling from the Marijuana Policy Project." And they say, "The Maryland Policy Project?"

"No, no. Marijuana."

I lobby to enact protection for medical marijuana patients and their caregivers, primarily, and I also focus on the larger government's war on marijuana. Believe it or not, I receive wonderful reception from both the Democratic and Republican members of Congress. One Democratic member told me about a year ago that I was doing the Lord's work. He said, "Aaron, you're laboring in the vineyards." And, less than a year ago, I was talking to a Republican member of Congress, a very culturally conservative gentleman from the South, who told me that he thought the libertarian side of him agreed with us. He thought that these decisions about medicine, and patients being able to use and have access to medical marijuana, did belong in the hands of the states, but that he thought his district would never support it.

Members of Congress, more than people might expect, take this issue really seriously. A lot of members of Congress talk to me about their family members who have had cancer or have had serious illnesses where they've benefited from the use of medical marijuana. Because of the kind of work I do, I think many people, including members of Congress, regard me almost like a priest, in the sense that they are willing to confess their marijuana use to me as if I were a priest, as if they were in a confessional. Their own usage, patterns of it, and what they believe about the policy. I'd say that it's true for everyone from a bike courier on the street all the way up to members of Congress. It's shown me -- and I had no idea before I started working here --the number of people who actually have had experiences with marijuana.

I think there's virtually no difference in what I do and what other lobbyists do. The difference is in the issue.

--Interview by Cathy Areu

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